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What Makes a Guitar "Durable and Reliable" To You?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by bgmacaw, Dec 5, 2020.

  1. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Friend of Leo's

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    I noticed a lot of new or want-to-learn players on various sites asking about how durable and/or reliable a particular guitar is, usually in relation to a lower end guitar like a Squier, Harley Benton or Epiphone. What do you think makes a guitar durable and reliable?

    Overall, I think most inexpensive guitars made today are pretty good initially out of the box. Sure, some lemons slip through but most are good. But, what we don't know right now is how well they'll stand the test of time and use.

    The most likely point of failure I've encountered are switches and jacks. I've seen a number of guitars with "broken pickups" where the issue was a bad switch. Switch replacement is pretty high on my list when I'm rehabbing a used guitar.

    The other big long term issue I've seen is neglect. People throw their guitar in a closet, attic, basement or storage unit and the guitar gets damaged or suffers from poor environmental conditions. Is this the fault of the guitar or simply user error?

    I've heard some people having issues with necks over the long term but I haven't witnessed this on a well cared for guitar of recent (25 years or newer) manufacture. I have seen this on cheap guitars from the 80's and 70's though.
     
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  2. Sparky2

    Sparky2 Friend of Leo's

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    I think of microphones like the Shure SM58, rifles built in the old Soviet Union, or screwdrivers made by Craftsman, as durable.

    Reliable comes to mind with Honda cars, Maytag washers, and Yamaha motorcycles.

    With guitars, my thought process is more like, "I have to be precious with this one" or "I don't have to be precious with that one".

    As you mentioned or implied, bgmacaw, durability/reliability may be directly related to the amount of abuse or neglect a player can dish out onto it.

    If I meet an old guitar, and it's got some dings and nicks on it, but it still plays nice and sounds good, then I'm impressed with its toughness, tenacity, and lust for life.

    Durable and reliable just aren't often found in my guitar lexicon, I guess.

    :(
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2020
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  3. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

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    Amy bolt-on neck, solid body guitar where the neck and headstock are straight, no angles. Basically, any current-production Fender-type guitar.
     
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  4. SRHmusic

    SRHmusic Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I think you have it right about the switch, jack, volume/tone pots and tuning hardware - basically the moveable parts that can be heavily cost reduced to the point they barely work right in the first place. But those are easily replaceable. (I can't remember how many times people ask about fixing jacks on amps, esp. those where the jack connects directly to a PCB - another cost reduction.) Beyond that, if the the wood is too soft or not finished correctly a guitar could be unstable over time. As usually I'd recommend to avoid the low end of any product and go for the next tier up from the bottom as a starting point. As @3-Chord-Genius notes, most bolt-ons are pretty bullet proof, but it is possible to make anything too cheap.
     
  5. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Plays in tune and stays in tune.

    Has controls that remain silent in use.

    Hardware that wears hard. Guitars are portable items like mobile phones; they will inadvertently get knocked and bumped in use, even when the user is taking care to be gentle with it.



    For many years, Gibson used cast-body pot metal tuning machines that appeared to be made from stale donuts and old underwear: one small, light bump and the tuner body would crumble like a graham cracker. I've lost count of the number of Gibson tuners I replaced for clients over the years. These tuners were used even on many of their "premium" models. The classic Kluson tuner design (stamped steel body) is almost bulletproof. It can take a hit hard enough to bend the shaft the knob is on, and it keeps right on truckin'. Same goes for the original Grovers.
     
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  6. naveed211

    naveed211 Tele-Afflicted

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    Durable for me would be any guitar that doesn’t have major damage if you drop it. Typically many bolt ons would qualify as durable. It’s more of a structural thing.

    Reliable to me would pertain to the parts of the guitar itself. If the electronics are crappy or the switch fails or whatever. If it will reliably stay in tune in it’s stock form, etc.
     
  7. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

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    I had a bad experience with the rectangular, box-shaped tuners that say "deluxe" on the back of them, on a Les Paul I used to have. We were playing a gig one night, and the box thing just popped off the back of the tuner, and the gear came loose! The string basically went slack while we were playing a song - we took a short break, I found that back piece on the floor, put it back on, tuned the string to pitch, and then wrapped electrical tape around the headstock and the tuning key to keep it there for the rest of the night.

    So I went to an authorized Gibson repair shop in town, and picked up a brand new tuner of the same type. You may not believe this, because I almost didn't, but the same freaking thing happened to that new tuner a few months later. Finally, I found a used set of Grovers and replaced all of them. Didn't have a problem since.
     
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  8. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    My 2 main squeeze guitars are a study in extremes.
    One’s hollow, ones solid, one’s got a B bender, one has a Bigsby, one’s big, one’s compact, one’s MIJ, one’s MIA, one is 17 years old, the other 33, both sound great, both stay in tune well, both have 4 great, distinct tones, both are long scale, both have substantial maple necks, both have great sounding hum-cancelling pickups, and both are ultra dependable tools.
    These two.
    I can’t sound like myself without em’!
    2515AD47-2E5D-4057-A135-6853EBBDE51B.jpeg 6491784D-09DA-4898-B6B0-D15DBFC3C89C.jpeg
     
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  9. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Friend of Leo's

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    Simplicity! And plywood!

    IMG_20151210_103631.jpg
     
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  10. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I guess I'd start with a common standard guitar like one of the Squiers that all the Fender parts fit, then just make sure the neck is a decent looking piece of wood with grain that's going the same direction as the neck, IOW no diagonal or curved grain.
    I just find neck stability is a big part of reliability, and straighter wood stays straighter while diagonal and curvy grained wood is more likely to move in ways that are other than straight.

    If a new player is learning to play the thing, they can also learn to fix minor issues like a bad switch.
    Depends on the individual though, some fingers are good with a guitar but bad with a screwdriver so YMMV!
     
  11. Jimmy Dean

    Jimmy Dean Friend of Leo's

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    I think it has more to do with how the player takes care of his toys. I have been playing for over 50 years and have owned multiple guitars, cheap & expensive. The only time any guitar has broken was the head on a tuner and a few plastic bridge pins.
     
  12. aFewGoodTaters

    aFewGoodTaters Tele-Meister

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    I have a MIM Classic Strat that falls in the 'durable and reliable' camp for me. It's certainly not the prettiest or most expensive guitar I own.... but it plays great, sounds excellent, holds its tuning very well, and rarely requires anything more that just minor tweaks to the setup. It's a great workhorse guitar for rehearsing or gigging. I know what I'm going to get out of it and don't have to worry about consistency from night to nigh. Also, the bolt on neck and more of the budget price point means it can take a beating and I'm not going to lose sleep.
     
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  13. Telecaster88

    Telecaster88 Tele-Holic

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    She was my first girlfriend.
     
  14. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Oh, I do believe it. Those Gibson Deluxe tuners are made of pot metal (Heinz-57 alloy). Even the pins that are swaged (pressed/riveted) to hold the base plate onto the back shell together are pot metal, which is not exactly famous for its plastic deformation qualities. It's precisely why engineers don't spec peanut brittle as a material to make anything structural.
     
  15. archiemax

    archiemax Tele-Meister

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    Tuning stability. I've made the observation that it's often not the tuners that are at fault for a guitar's inability to play in tune and stay in tune, but a poorly cut nut that needs some lube.
     
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  16. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Here's a pic of Telecaster88 and his date for the prom.

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Some good ones already mentioned. My pet peeve is fret wear from cheap or defective fret wire.
     
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